Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘group’

From Under Her Feet

An excerpt from the book Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call. An interview with Sybil Anderson-Adams.

Adams-AndersonHer life was the picture of success. Her husband was an attorney, they were drawing up plans for their dream home, and she recently quit her teaching job, to spend more time with their three children. Suddenly, the rug was pulled out from under her feet. What started out as a headache in court, turned out to be a leaking aneurysm. In spite of the doctors’ assurances to the contrary, within three weeks Sybil Anderson-Adams husband was dead. Without comprehension or time to have said good-bye, she struggled to survive and make sense of the incomprehensible.

As a result of her desperation and need to find answers, Sybil reached out to her friends, neighbors, doctor and church, and formed a support group for young adults who’s partners had died. The first meeting brought together twenty-five people who’d previously thought they were alone. With her need, and ability to communicate her process and grief to others, she continues to open the door of life for those who thought it had been slammed in their face and locked shut forever.

SYBIL ANDERSON-ADAMS: “When I arrived at the hospital the doctor said, ‘I have some bad news. Your husband stopped breathing.’ I’ll never forget those words. ‘He stopped breathing.’ He finally said, ‘I’m sorry . . . he’s passed away.’ It was then that it hit me . . . like a wosh.  I doubled over . . . just like you see in the movies.

After the shock had subsided, I realized I didn’t know who I was anymore. It was the loss of identity. I was the type of person who always had my entire life planned out. Before Neal died, I’d never really had a traumatic event. I had things all figured and scheduled . . . which, as you know, gives you a sense of control. But I had no control over this one and that was my undoing. I had to decide where I was going; who I was. There was an urgency. I remember going to a counselor and saying, ‘When will I not feel this way? When, when, when?!’ The reality was so strong that I wanted it to be over. I didn’t want to cry anymore.

Then one day, I remember making a decision. it was something one of my kids said. You know, ‘Out of the mouths of babes!’ One of my sons says, ‘If you hadn’t stopped and talked to Dad that one day long ago, you might never had known him or gotten married.’ I said, ‘You know, you’re right.’ And I had this vision where I decided that whatever came up I’d say, ‘Yes!’ That I would do things no matter how hard it was. When my kids had stuff they needed to do . . . cub scouts, swimming . . . I made a decision that no matter what, I wasn’t going to hide at home anymore, I was going to go. And what I found was that doing that made me stronger, even though a lot of the events I attended were absolute disasters! Taking some kind of action made me feel brave. it gave me confidence.

I remember sitting with another friend who was at that same juncture. She said, ‘I hate this. I want to be out of here.’ I felt the same at the time and replied, ‘Yeah, just get me out.’ And that’s one of the reasons I started a support group, and keep it going to this day. I needed those people so bad. They were my reality. If somebody else could make it, so could I.

For awhile I could only live for the day. The future was nonexistent. I’ve met many people throughout the years that say the same thing. They said, ‘Good-bye” in the morning and their spouse was dead by the afternoon. It changed my whole concept of how I look at things. I laugh more often now. We’ve got three teenagers and one in early adolescence. They can make you laugh or cry. If I wasn’t able to laugh once in a while our life would be one miserable hell.

I think all survivors make that decision at some point. You have to decide to live. My kids forced me into it. I’d be in bed with the covers pulled over my head, not wanting to get out, and one of them would come in and say, ‘What’s for breakfast?’ What are you going to do; I couldn’t stay in bed? I had to get up. I was the only one they had left.

We had a saying in our house, ‘Life sucks.’ It was kind of our motto for awhile. The kids would say, ‘Life sucks!’ and I’d look at them and say, ‘Yeah, then what?’ They’d answer, ‘Then you die.’ I’d continue, ‘So, then what are you going to do about it?’ They’d look at me, roll their eyes and say, ‘Come on Mom.’ It’s made them real. They see a different reality then most kids.

Life has become a really interesting place. Neal’s death and where my life has gone since, has added another dimension. God knows I wish it hadn’t happened, but without it I could have lived until I was eighty-five and never discovered this! Life is such a gift, though I’m not thrilled with the way I had to really find this out. I love being in this state of mind. I’m doing things that I never knew I could or would do. There was a point two years after he died when I realized, ‘My God, I can do anything!’ I survived something that at first glance seemed like an endless hole of despair. I didn’t think I’d ever climb out . . . but I did.

More inspiring stories at Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call

Noting Now

Last week when we visited the meditation group at Salinas State Prison, the sitting meditation portion involved the “noting” practice. I’ve been finding it to be very helpful at any time.

“Noting” means just that. As one becomes aware of which sense they are using, they simply say to themselves or “note” what is happening at that moment. If I become aware that I am listening or hearing something, I note “hearing”. If my eyes are open and I am aware of seeing, I note “seeing”. The same holds true for “feeling” (which includes emotions and body sensations), smelling, speaking and thinking. Thinking is often the one sense that we are most unaware of and get caught in for sometime (past or future) before becoming aware that we are “thinking”. When noting thinking, it helps to take us out of the story or “stuff” our mind is telling us. It’s not a matter of trying to use one sense over another or to push away or hold on to any thing, but simply noting what is.

The question or experience that can also arise, as one is noting, is “Who or what is it that is aware of one’s self or senses, that is able to be conscious of which sense is active. Then again, that is just another question… “thinking”.

This practice of noting tends to keep one much more present and aware of what is, rather than what was or how we want things “to be”. As always, it is not “the way”, but a good boat to use as we get to the other shore.

Courage Inside Walls

Went to maximum security prison yesterday for weekly group. Only there for about 3 hours, but time seemed irrelevant. What was relevant, was the insight, wisdom and life experience shared by those present for the meditation class.

Issue of anger, grief, revenge and killing came to surface and how people have dealt with those feelings and actions in the past and how they understand and see them and them selves, now.

Take a breath, pause, observe what you are experiencing moment to moment (physically, emotionally & mentally) and name or label it. Then, if you choose (and having a “choice” is key) to then take wise skillful action or not, it is more likely that you will not be reacting out of conditioning or pain, but with consciousness and compassion. That is the essence of what we and those in the group are discovering.

Our words and actions are important and have effects, but the intentions and awareness behind, before or with them are even more vital.

The strength and courage of the men in this group to be willing to step outside the known, to look at them selves honestly and to convey what they are seeing is liberating, artful and inspiring. Martin Luther King Jr. often spoke about not judging one by their outer appearances, but by the character of their character and humanity.

Nobody attending this weekly group pretends that they are now beyond their past and have permanently changed for the good (including the facilitators), nor excused them selves or blamed their incarceration on others. They have taken responsibility for their actions and the consequences. They have begun to personally understand the pain and loss they have inflicted on others, but have also come to realize that the “others” are in fact part of them selves and that harm to another is also harming ones self.

Practicing meditation and self-reflection and observation in a prison setting takes a lot of guts. Practicing meditation and mindfulness in our daily lives wherever our bodies are, takes vigilance, consistency and continual fine tuning. I hope those of us on the outside continue to practice with as much bravery and sustained effort as these men who are temporarily living within prison walls.

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